In March this year, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) will hold an inaugural “Brand Summit” conference at the British Museum, London. The conference will concentrate on the value of brand, as well as how to create and manage brand experience for customers.
The subject of brand image is important as indicated by the CIM conference, but then so are many other commercial factors. Concentrating too closely on any one business area may result in other important factors being overlooked, which may bring their own dangers,
Commercial managers are responsible for producing a continuous flow of profitable income, by anticipating and satisfying customer requirements. While others play important parts in managing finance, supplies, and personnel, commercial managers have the responsibility of using asset and resources to create the essential income on which the business, the workforce and the owners depend. To be successful, they need to have a wide range of customer related skills over and above understanding the value of brand in order to generate and maintain levels of profitable income.
But while they have control over the use of assets and resources, they have no control over those outside factors which directly and indirectly affect the business. However good the commercial manger, the product and the supporting staff may be, it is the outside forces that can conspire to undermine even established and successful businesses. It is vital to be aware of changes in technology, law and the economic environment and to be able to assess their potential effects on current and future business. Failure to detect and understand these changes can bring profound effects.
An obvious example of this is the newspaper industry, which completely failed to foresee the effect that the internet would have on the way news is consumed, and continued with a traditional increasingly out dated approach. With advertising revenues continuing to fall Trinity Mirror closed seven regional newspapers last year. Meanwhile, Huffington Post, Twitter, Buzzfeed and a multitude of other young companies have made big inroads into the newspaper’s market.
Commercial managers need to be aware of developments in their markets at an early stage, because change may be rapid. Technology is changing the way people shop, consume and live through the use of SMS marketing (short message service marketing), social media, and on-demand media. Companies that ignores the changes in their market can soon disappear like famous names such as Woolworths and Comet.
Producing profitable income at a high level day to day, requires managers to have an intense operational focus, but to continue to produce income for the future, they need to have a broad awareness of their commercial environment and what may be called peripheral vision.
Peripheral vision is to be aware when new threats or opportunities emerge on the edge of their usual business environment. Monitoring what is happening in other industries, distant markets, new research, emerging business models, and remote demographic data may at first seem to have little relevance to the business portfolio, but may reveal the early warning signs of impending change that could threaten a company’s long-term survival. Developing peripheral vision is about being able to anticipate change, by sensing where to look for clues, understanding how to interpret weak signals, and having the courage to act when those signals are still ambiguous.
Recognising signs of change is not easy especially in areas that may only effect a business indirectly, therefore commercial managers should seek to:
- Be vigilant in looking for potentially significant developments at the periphery of their business, e.g. related industries, suppliers, related technology.
- Search beyond the boundaries of current, prevailing views, regarding developments in law, economy, technology and communications.
- Seek ways to recognize potential changes before the competition does.
- Consider multiple hypotheses about the causes of change.
- Encourage staff to think independently and voice alternative ideas.
- Remain vigilant and curious about signals from many spheres that might impinge directly or indirectly on business activity.
Concentrating too much on any particular internal aspect of a business can easily distract the commercial manager from the changes and developments in their own business environment. Developments in communications and technological can happen quickly, and businesses that are slow to recognise the signs may not have time to adapt quickly enough.
If commercial managers are to stay ahead of the game, and continue to produce profitable income for the future, they must remain vigilant in order to detect the signs of change at an early stage